Because massage therapists are so focused on taking care of everyone else, many times your own needs are not met physically, emotionally and mentally.

Just as your body needs maintenance, your emotions and mind need attention too. Without maintenance, any of us can develop mental or physical disorders, have increased chronic pain, have lower mental retention, be constantly tired and be emotionally vulnerable.

This can lead to negative, destructive habits, less interaction with friends and family, depressive symptoms and anxieties. Because massage therapists are constantly working with people, having a healthy body both physically and mentally is very important. (I am a former, 15-year massage therapist.)

Otherwise, whatever energy that the client is bringing to the massage therapist can “stick” to them, causing irritability, headaches and nausea. We have all experienced this after working with an overly emotional client. So, self-care and self-maintenance is paramount in having a successful career and a happy life.

Self-Care vs. Self-Maintenance

Self-care and self-maintenance are different terms that both deal with taking care of yourself. Self-care is more of the emotional and mental care needed to have a peaceful mind, emotional balance and rational thinking.

Examples could be:

• having a hobby outside of massage therapy,

• exercise,

• socialization,

• journaling,

• being in nature, and

• alone time.

Self-maintenance would entail more of the physical aspects of care:

• working out

• stretching before and after sessions

• eating right

• limitations on alcohol and other destructive substances, and

• doing activities outside of massage therapist that stimulate your mind (reading, sudoku, painting, arts and crafts).

Having these kinds of strengths can help keep you healthy and protect you from the bombardment of emotions and energies from other people and help you stay in a healthy mindset.

As far as the self-care aspect of health, exercises to do this are called mental skills. They include positive self-talk, motivation and thought-stopping. Simply put, these are skills that you learn and practice to take control over your thoughts and stay based in reality, not in your emotionally charged reality.

Benefits of Positive Self-Talk

When your thoughts are based in reality and positive, you are able to calmly focus on the task at hand and not self-sabotage yourself into thinking negative, destructive thoughts.

An example of this could be:

You try on something you have not worn in a while and it does not fit. You tell yourself, “Well that is what happens when you never work out. You are getting overweight. You’re a loser.” By telling yourself that you are unmotivated and overweight, you set yourself up to feel those feelings over again. You set the pattern of seeing yourself as an unmotivated, unattractive person, when the event was simply an article of clothing that does not fit.

Let’s practice some positive self-talkand see how we can change that.

Instead of telling yourself, “You are unmotivated and overweight,” try, “This does not fit. I guess that is a good sign for me to get back in the gym. I was wanting something to motivate me to get working out again and this will work.”

By changing the focus of the event, you change your mindset. Now you have a reason to self- motivate and can track your progress easily. You have set yourself up for a positive experience instead of setting a negative self-image.

Document Your Mindset

A great way to track these changes no matter how big or small they are is with journaling.

Keep a small notebook with you and when you notice you are changing your mindset, mark it down in whatever fashion you want. Having a written record of the changes will prompt you to have accountability for your actions and help you to stay focused on your thoughts and feelings to be aware of when those negative, unrealistic thoughts seep in.

Another great mental skill is thought-stopping. This goes along with positive self-talk but goes a step further. We all know there are things we tell ourselves that are self- destructive and ways to pass the blame or frustration. Examples would be, “Well, I will never be good at that,” “Oh well, I am always going to be stupid,” or “No one is ever going to love me, I am hopeless.”

The first thing I want to say about these types of thoughts is, stop it! We all know our phrases that we use when feeling crappy but saying them to ourselves over and over is doing nothing but reinforcing them. Catch these thoughts and stop them. They are self-destructive.

Write them in your journal when they pop up or make a mark of somehow to remind yourself that these are self-destructive thoughts. The more you are aware of the ways you are putting yourself down, the more you can reconstruct these thoughts to something positive. There is no reason to talk badly to yourself about yourself. You should be your own best friend. Work at becoming friends with yourself.

Learn to Let Go

Now, I must mention here that generalized negative thoughts are natural and are different from self-destructive thoughts. Negative thoughts are part of us. These are where we figure things out and learn what our motivations and fears are.

There is no need to suppress or try and erase them. When negative thoughts come to mind, see them from a distance and acknowledge them and then simply let them go. This is easier said than done, I know, but starting small and building up your mental skills like this will help you to be more self- confident, less stressed, less vulnerable and more motivated and moving forward.

Start putting yourself on your to-do list. Without you, there is no awesome massage therapist doing the work. Begin finding ways to love yourself and take control of your thoughts so that you can be strong physically, mentally and emotionally.

About the Author:

Hope Cate offers athletic and non-athletic coaching, life consulting and mindfulness coaching through her tele-counseling practice, In The Zone Performance. She is an applied sport psychologist that helps people find ways to better performance and better lives.

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